July18 National Members Council


As Britain basked in another glorious sunny day, I trudged wearily down into the basement of the Co-ops support centre in Manchester to participate in the July 2018 National Members Council.
It may be rose tinted glasses, but every Council Meeting seems to be held on a lovely bright Saturday.  The good news was that the air conditioning was on. The big worry was: would Council business finish in time to watch the England Sweden match?

7TH July was the 78th anniversary of International Co-operatives day. The Co-operative College has launched a fundraising initiative to support women in Sri Lanka , click here for more details.

We had two fantastic and interesting speakers during the first half.  Helen Carroll, Director of Co-op Brand and Charles Offord , Director of Distribution and Marketing from our Insurance business.

Carol outlined three main themes in her presentation:  Brand, Community and Membership. Firstly the Brand,  she made the point that for it to work  The Co-op has been investing in these areas for several years, which I can testify too.  My local store in Yatton is a shining example of all three aspects of our Brand.
well, there needs to be an underpinning with value for money, great products and high quality goods.

On Community she focused upon our 1% offer of the membership proposition. When members select a community group to fund, their perception of the Co-op increase and the amount they shop with us increases.  We still need to attract more new shoppers to our stores, but when members engage with us they see the benefit to themselves and their community.

Membership has increased on the back of the 5:1 proposition by 1.6m and we have distributed over £120m back to our members and their communities. But it is still seen by many as a loyalty card rather than a member benefit.  One of the drivers that could change that perception is our national campaigning, we undertake many national campaigns, but perhaps the message is lost.  Should be concentrate on a small number of core campaigns that highlight our Co-op difference and communicate this message more widely to our members?   

Charles updated members on our latest position in the Insurance Customer Service Index. We are now 5th with a satisfaction rating of 81.1%. A massive improvement over the last three years.  Charles outlined that the insurance business had in the past not been good at bringing new products to members. This was now changing, and our new travel insurance has been a commercial success since it was launched last year. It is recommended by Which.   New products are in the pipeline, but confidentiality forbids me to mention the product.

Insurance has also a community angle, and Charles highlighted the excellent work we are doing with young people on safer driving, working with our School Academies to educate our young adults on how to drive safely.  He also updated us on the safer used car programme to ensure young people start to drive as safe as possible.

Questions to four Directors followed coffee. Chris Kelly, Hazel Blear, Gareth Thomas and Paul Chandler handled questions form the Council Members. Whilst I think this is not a particularly  useful way of holding Directors to account it did give Council members an opportunity to challenge Directors on the safety of our colleagues in our food stores, especially those store that only have two members of staff working late in the evenings.

We also had a new session where individual directors answered questions from a smaller group of Council Members. This allowed for more of a discussion rather than for a straight Q&A. In my group we expanded on the store colleague piece and I felt that the Director was left in no doubt that this was an area that needed Board attention.

The final session related to an important piece of work that the Council Rules Revision working group undertook.  This related to a review of the rule book to ensure that not only are they are fit for purpose but also to ensure that the Council was fully utilising the rules to fulfil our purpose.  There were seventeen areas where we draw the Boards attention to aspects of the rules where we felt more progress could be made.  For instance, we were concerned by the lack of progress in allowing members to communicate directly to Council Members.  Another instance was the lack of progress in setting up sub national structures and how Member Pioneers would fit in to these structures.  The report was approved and will now be sent to the Board for their views.

We also discussed the revision to the qualifying purchasing regulations, now that the Co-operative Bank has formally dropped out of the membership proposition.  We agreed to remove all reference to the bank and holding a bank account will not give members any qualifying purchases points from 2020 onwards. So if you rely on the bank to vote, then you need to make other purchases from out businesses in the near future.

Thankfully, thesecond half ended just to time to watch the England match!

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